The Ahmednagar police has returned the impounded passports of 29 foreign nationals who were part of the Tablighi Jamaat. A local court in Ahmednagar had served a showcause notice to the police earlier this week for refusing to return the passports despite a Bombay High Court order.
The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court had last month quashed FIRs against the 29 foreign nationals and asked the police to return their passports.
Three separate FIRs were filed in three talukas against the 29 foreign nationals from countries including Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Iran, Djibouti and Brunei. While two police stations in Ahmednagar had refused to return the passports, one police station handed over the passports on August 28, only to ask them to return them the next day. The men had then approached a local court seeking return of their passports and visa documents to enable their return journeys.
Late Thursday, officials from the police stations called the men and asked them to collect their documents. The police have also withdrawn an appeal filed before a sessions court against the lower court’s order.
On August 21, Justices T V Nalawade and M G Sewlikar had quashed the FIRs stating that there was no evidence that they had violated visa rules or lockdown during the pandemic and that they were made ‘scapegoats’. The state government had sought a stay on the order stating that it has to take a decision on whether to challenge the order, but it was refused by the court. Based on the order, the men had filed a plea before a court in Ahmednagar for return of their passports.
“After their passports were returned, the embassies have begun facilitating the process of their return,” said lawyer Mazhar Jahagirder. He added that the men, who were living in private accommodation in Ahmednagar, have returned to Mumbai and Delhi to expedite their return.
The men, most of them small traders, came to India in February and March and were arrested by the Ahmednagar police on April 17. They were released on bail on June 17 after two months in jail. So far, in Maharashtra, two groups in Vashi and Mumbra have been discharged of all charges. A group of 10 Indonesian nationals booked in Nanded were discharged under the Foreigners Act, while they pleaded guilty to other charges and were permitted to leave the country after a paying fine of Rs 1,500 each.
In Mumbai, the Bandra police has dropped charges under Section 307 (attempt to murder) and 304 (2) (culpable homicide) of the IPC against 12 foreigners.